Into Great Silence ¦ Sound Pollution


Main_saxo_boot I enjoy most things about city life, but one of the perennial frustrations is noise. Light pollution, on the micro scale at least, is fairly easy to manage. We can shut our curtains or buy special blinds, and shut our eyes if need be. And, while some objects are foul to look at, we only need turn our heads…

Sound, on the other hand, is a far more difficult sense. It doesn’t ‘shadow’ well, and is extremely difficult to insulate against, far harder than light. Noise is therefore a far more antisocial thing than colour or design. If my neighbour paints their house fuscia, I needn’t think about it much. If they play loud music, I have no option.

Cities are noisy places, and I think this does contribute in no small way to the general tension, and thus propensity for anger and violence, that cities are also guilty of. Traffic noise is perhaps the most pernicious, particularly since it is almost impossible to control (the infuriating 2-stroke scooter been driven past has long gone before any law-enforcement might arrive) and is also so widely accepted.

But perhaps help is on its way. Mathematicians and scientists have developed a theoretical material which would cloak an object in total silence. The implications for this are enormous. Houses that are properly sound insulated. Engine casings that would render vehicles quiet. Headgear, even, that would drop you into a calm oasis of silence amidst the noise and haste.

I wish them all the best in the trials that are to come. And want to sign up for a sheet of it to go over my back fence. Or round the boom-box in the boot of my neighbour’s car.